Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wild weather and tragedy

Yesterday was a wild and unsettled day. We have so few of those here in northern California that I'm always excited to see one, even if it really should be spring already! First it rained. Then there was sun. Then it hailed while I was doing some dishes. I just had to go outside and be pummeled a bit. When I'd had enough I went back to finish up those dishes. As I looked out the window at our neighbor's wall about three feet away, I saw that one of the house finches had taken shelter under the eaves. Fortunately the dishes were done so I grabbed my sketchbook for what I thought would be a quick sketch, but the finch stayed and when I looked up a bit I saw that his mate was there too, singing loudly and constantly, as she's been doing quite a bit for the past few days.

Earlier in the day I'd seen them displaying courtship behavior several times. She sang while he gathered what I guess were especially tasty seeds which he then brought to her. She fluttered her wings and opened her beak wide at which point he fed her a rather amazing amount of food. Then they both went about their usual business.

My husband, Greg, has  been adding compost to our vegetable beds and turning it to prepare for planting. Evidently this is like putting pies on the porch to cool ---the finches and sparrows have been spending more time in the new dirt gathering food than at the feeders. This morning, as we have every year, we put wire covers over the beds to keep neighborhood cats from using our dirt as a rest stop and to protect seedlings from the birds until they're sturdier and less interesting to those birds.

Shortly after the covers went up we noticed the male finch roaming about under one of them collecting food while his intended perched on the cover above him and sang. Each planting season a few birds have gotten inside the covers but always managed to get themselves out so we weren't too concerned. We watched to make sure he'd figure out how to get out and he did in short order so we went about our business as he went about his.

A little while later, I heard a series of bird sounds I'd never heard before and I went outside to see what it was and was horrified to find a scrub jay standing on top of the cover attacking the finch who was underneath and flying around the inside edge, trying to escape, absolutely the worst place he could be because the jay had easy reach there. I shooed the jay away and collected the finch who didn't seem able to fly, while Greg removed the covers from the garden beds. We took the bird off to our wonderful local  Bird Rescue Center. They'll be able to tell me in 48 hours if he's going to be all right.


  1. What a a drama. I never heard that a jay would attack other birds that way! Nice pencil drawing, there is always such a lot going on just around the corner:).

  2. How lovely to have those little finches nesting so near. I do hope your story has a happy ending. What is your remaining finch doing in the meantime?

    Terrific drawing of the happy couple.